Archive for November, 2011


…or “Sin City” as the strip is actually titled (presumably they changed the title on the cover to avoid confusion with the film Sin City).

(WARNING – Review contains significant spoilers.)

Whenever I read a Dredd trade that I’ve never read before I usually have a fair idea of what the story will be about, but with Satan’s Island I hadn’t a clue. Its was with some enthusiasm then that I said down to read this mini-epic. Sin City tells the story of the largest mobile man made structure ever created…the eponymus Sin City. On Sin City anything goes, there are no laws and whilst on board people are able to do pretty much everything. As you can imagine when Sin City arrives next to the Big Meg, Dredd is less than impressed and reluctantly agrees to lead a detatchment of Judges to keep an eye on it.

But the Judges are really there for a different reason, for onboard Sin City is a known terrorist, aiming to bring death and destruction to Mega City One. A nice plot twist occurs around half way through, when after capturing the terrorist Dredd discovers that the man behind the plot is actually none other than Sov Judge Orlok. I must admit to not being familiar with Orlok myself, so perhaps the reveal of his involvement didn’t suprise me as much as it should have done. However once Orlok became involved I felt the pace of Sin City really picked up and the story benefited as a result.

What I really liked about this trade is the inclusion of three more stips after Sin City. These three strips (two one parters, and a two parter) show the aftermath and fall out of the events aboard Sin City. Most significantly the final strip, The Trial Of Orlok, is the last appearance of the Sov Judge, as he is executed by lethal injection at the storys conclusion. Again I’m sure this would be more significant to a reader who was more familiar with the character of Orlok (who I believe had been around since before the Apocalypse War). But still its nice that they included these strips here to give a sense of the repercussions Sin City had.

The art is of a high standard throughout, although if I was being picky I would have to say that the colouring on Sin City was a little bit too muted for my taste. The best art and colouring in the trade is reserved for The Trial Of Orlok, with the legendary Cam Kennedy picking up the pencils to give the story his distinctive style (I always recognise Kennedy’s artwork by the characters chins).

Sure Satan’s Island isn’t a mega epic on the scale of say Necropolis, but its a very enjoyable read none the less, and is an essential purchase as it brings to an end the story of one of Mega City One’s most memorable villians.

7/10

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There have been many Alien crossovers in the past taking on everything from Predator to Batman so its suprising that it took so long for them to come up against Mega City One’s finest. Naturally this put a great deal of expectation onto the strip before so much as a panel had been published. For the most part though Dredd vs Aliens is a resounding success.

Storywise its pretty much what you’d expect. The hatching of a single Alien quickly results in Mega City One becoming infested with the things, with the Judges left to try and put a stop to them.  However there is a lot more to the story than that, for one thing there is a very strong supporting cast here especially in the case of the Verminators. Called in to deal with what is initially thought to be a bug problem in a hospital they rapidly find themselves out of their depth as the Aliens pick them off one by one. With the deaths of some of their group we get a real sense of a genuine history and friendship between the Verminators. On the other side of the coin we have a very interesting villian in the disfigured Mr Bones. The problem with the Aliens is that they are very one dimensional, you can’t sit down and have a conversation with an Alien, they are just vicious killing machines. This is why the character of Mr Bones had to be a good one, to essentially give a voice and a motivation behind the Aliens. Having been disfigured by the Aliens acidic blood Mr Bones (genetically predisposed to evil) decides he will set them loose on Mega City One as revenge for his exile from the city as a child.

Theres a cracking good action story here to go along with the wonderful characterisation. Dredd battling an Alien on top of a train is exactly the sort of thing you’d expect to see in some big budget blockbuster and it is no less exciting here than it would be on the silver screen. Indeed theres a lot of cinematic scenes throughout this story which shouldn’t really be to much of a suprise considering the Aliens originated from the movies. We have flashbacks to the villians past, scenes of thousands of Aliens with their Human victims suspended from the ceiling, and epic battles between the Judges and the Aliens (including the robotic Judges previously seen in “Mechanismo”).

The art is by Henry Flint so you know its going to be good. As you’d expect we get to see plenty of Aliens bursting out of peoples chests as well as some very graphic scenes of Judges being dissolved by the Aliens acidic blood. Flint draws the Aliens on mass extremly well including a very memorable full page panel of the Aliens breaking into the Grand Hall of Justice itself.

As far as crossovers go Judge Dredd vs Aliens is easily one of the better ones you are likely to come across. Easily as good as it sounds from the title and always exciting it is recommended reading.

8/10

(Bagged with Judge Dredd Megazine 317)

In reviewing Tor Cyan I am coming at it somewhat blind. At time of writing I have yet to read the Mercy Heights strips in which Cyan’s character originated, but I figured I was familiar enough with Rogue Trooper to be able to follow what was happening. I needn’t have worried as it happens as so long as you know Tor Cyan used to be an Ambulance Pilot then the rest of his strips are very much stand alone.

Unfortunatly the Tor Cyan strips are a very mixed bag. The first few stories feel oddly disjointed, as if the writer (John Tomlinson) was making them up as he went along and didn’t really know where he was going with them. The art really doesn’t help either, theres a fight scene in “Refugee” where I had absolutly no idea what was happening. When the art isn’t clear then its always going to hamper a story, and when the story isn’t very good to begin with then your just asking for trouble.

Its not all bad though. The last two strips in this collection (“Rahab” and “Phage”) are a vast improvement over what comes before them. Tying in more closely to the Rogue Trooper strips these two stories give a sense of direction to Tor Cyan that was lacking in previous installments. Rogue even makes an appearance himself but certainly not in the way I was expecting and these two strips have left me looking forward to the final Cyan strip which will be published in next months Venus Bluegenes bagged collection. Even the art is a lot better here and certainly much more to my taste.

“Rahab” and “Phage” just about managed to save this collection from being a complete write off for me. If you have it then I recommend just skipping everything else and just reading the last two strips.

5/10

Defoe – 1666

Zombies – Now they’re not usually my thing at all. In recent years there has been an oversaturation of Zombie stories and products out there, none of which I’v ever enjoyed. Defoe on the other hand is an instant classic. 

Its the year 1666 (the title is a bit of a give way) and a great comet passes over London. Shortly after the dead start to rise and begin to wreak havoc.  Tasked to defend London is Zombie Hunter General (and former roundhead) Titus Defoe and his team of misfits and renegades.  Defoe is a very interesting character, Zombie hunting isn’t just a job for him, its personal. Haunted by his past and with nothing left to live for he hacks his way through the Zombie hordes like a man possessed. His background is a particularly tragic one having lost his wife and child as well as having been mentally scarred on the field of battle. One of the really interesting things about the Defoe strips is the attention to historical detail (although this shouldn’t come as a suprise as it is Pat Mills on writing duties). Within these pages you will see the likes of Charles II, Issac Newton, John Dee, and even Oliver Cromwell (who returns from the dead to lead the Zombie hordes.) All of these famous faces and battles really help to bring Defoe’s world to life.

The art by Leigh Gallagher (who lets be clear is most certainly not a woman) is absolutly extrordinary. There is just so much detail that he puts into his work which makes even the most mundane of panels leap out of the page. In fact having read through this trade im convinced that Gallagher must get no sleep while drawing these strips such is the level of detail with which he draws. All the art is in black and white and its a good thing too as colour really wouldn’t have worked for Defoe. Black and white art has an atmosphere all of its own. Whereas it doesn’t work as well for something like Judge Dredd its perfectly suited for the dark world of Defoe.

Defoe is very steampunk in that you will see flying machines, machine guns, and all manner of anachronisms, so if your into that kind of thing then you will certainly get a lot out of this. If your into your Zombies then your also really going to enjoy this. But the best thing I can say in Defoe’s favour is that I really don’t care for steampunk or Zombies…and yet I still absolutly loved Defoe.

8/10

I have a confession to make. When I first read a Sinister Dexter strip I really didn’t like it and subsequently I decided not to read any of the Sin/Dex strips that followed.  When I eventually did decide to give them another shot I found myself pleasently suprised. Turns out that the first strip I read was just a poor strip and that Sin/Dex was actually a really fun read (the offending strip was “The Why-Shaped Cut”). So pretty soon afterwards I got hold of the first Sin/Dex trade “Gunshark Vacation”.

What immediatly struck me was the way in which the very first Sin/Dex strips were written. The majority of this trade is made up of one shot stories instead of the multi parters we are used to today. In many ways this actually worked in introducing the characters to the reader. Giving us lots of one off stories week after week meant that the pace was always kept up without getting bogged down with a lengthy story to begin with. Of course this also means that we don’t get any real insight into the world in which Sinister and Dexter live in but when your having this much fun reading a strip who cares. Right at the end of the trade we are treated to the eight parter “Gunshark Vacation” which proved that Sin/Dex could actually handle long stories just as well.

Simon Davies art is a real divider of opinion. Its distinctive theres no doubt about that but it suits some strips better than others. Fortunatly Sin/Dex is a strip which his art fits really well (just check out the holo shirt Sinister wears in Gunshark Vacation). If your not a fan of Davies art though then I admit you are going to struggle to read through anything drawn by him. But for me the strips drawn by him are the highlight of this trade.

If you’ve never read Sinister Dexter before then I would recommend you pick up a copy of “Gunshark Vacation” (it can be bought pretty cheaply from ebay or Amazon). It may not be the most though provoking thing you will ever read…but if two wisecracking hitmen shooting bad guys in a near future city is your thing then you can’t go wrong.

7/10

I have a real soft spot for the Rogue Trooper game. On release it was what got me into 2000AD in the first place and pretty soon after playing the game I purchased my first prog.  Rebellion’s previous attempt at a 2000AD video game (Dredd vs Death) recieved decidedly mixed reviews especially due to its short length and unfortunatly Rogue Trooper is also too short.  This is however the only real critiscism I can level at the game as everything else is spot on.

The graphics are eyecatching throughout with the wormhole in the skies of Nu Earth looking particularly great. Gameplay is always  fun although perhaps a third person shooter isn’t to everyones taste. Personally I think the game would have suffered had it been made in the more traditional first person style.  The voice acting could so easily have been a problem but it is handled very well indeed with the three Biochips all sounding distinct from each other.

The story is based on the hunt for the traitor General run of strips and does an admirable job of bringing Nu Earth to life whilst sticking close to its source material. A nice addition to the game is the unlockable encyclopedia which adds a lot of depth to the characters, weapons, vehicles, and animals that you will encounter throughout the game. Also included in the encyclopedia are actual panels taken from the Rogue Trooper strips which (along with design sketches for the game) show how true to the classic comic this game really is.

If you have never played this game before then I suggest you do so immediatly. Its admitedly short but other than that is well worth playing whether you are familiar with the strips or not. Hell even if your not familiar with 2000AD you should play this game. If it brought me to 2000AD then Im sure it can do the same for others. 

9/10

(Stranger Than Truth by David Bishop is the first of (so far) four Crime Chronicles released by Big Finish Productions.)

Synopsis: Eliza Blunt is on a visit to Mega City One from Brit Cit hoping to get an interview with famed author Truman Caput (best known for his creation Slick Dickens).  However death seems to follow in the footsteps of Ms Blunt when she is witness to several murders by Slick Dickens himself, who appears to have stepped out of the pages of fiction and into reality.  Dredd investigates and discovers that he is top of Dickens hitlist.

Review: Stranger Than Truth is a story I have very mixed feelings about. While entertaining to listen to I did at times find that having a cast of two people meant my mind started to wander.  The plot twist at the end is one that you either won’t see coming, or will guess straight away if you have seen a certain film which uses the exact same twist. Toby Longworth is absolutly superb as Dredd and it is testament to him that whenever I read the strip it is his voice I hear coming out of those speech bubbles. Music and sound effects are also very good giving a constant background to the story which stops it from being just two people reading aloud.

I guess your enjoyment of this is really going to depend on whether or not you guess the plot twist. If like me you do, then you’ll probably find it a bit to long with not enough detours to maintain your interest. If you don’t then there is certainly plenty here to enjoy and to keep you guessing.

6/10

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